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Shaw grabs his chance with both hands

Galgorm Castle touring professional, who is also sponsored by Andrew Morris Golf in Belfast, will be at the Open de France in Paris this week. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ieGareth Shaw’s decision to take a truly professional approach to his career paid off massively at Carton House yesterday when he closed with a 69 to finish joint fifth in the Irish Open on his European Tour debut.

The 27-year old from Lurgan, who is now the touring professional for Galgorm Castle in Ballymena, came back from bogeys at the first two holes to play in his last 16 holes in five under par and claim a top 10 finish that secures him a place in this week’s €3 million Alstom Open de France.

“From the start of 2012 I made the decision to give it a good go,” said Shaw, who pocketed a cheque for €61,920, the biggest of his career as he finished alongside the likes of Shane Lowry and two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal on eight under par.

“The guys are so good now that if you don’t do it right, you are not going to make it. So I put a team together — my swing coach Johnny Foster, mental coach Fergus Wallace and putting coach Graham Leslie - and they all say the same thing and sing from the same hymn sheet.

“It’s great to be here.  I’ve been working hard to get here, where I feel I belong. The margins of where I’m playing on the Challenge Tour are so slim and you need a few breaks here and there and a bit of luck along the way. This week is a good incentive.”

Shaw won the 2012 Alps Tour Order of Merit to secure his place on the Challenge Tour this season where he has made seven of eight cuts so far

He only secured his invitation for the Irish Open late in the day when his regular practice partner Simon Thornton won in St Omer two weeks ago to claim his place in the field proper. And he took advantage of his opportunity, earning what will be his seventh tournament start in a row in Paris this week.

Thanks to his Irish Open performance, he is now 138th in the Race to Dubai standings with €68,434 and in with a chance of finishing in the top 110 who will have full status on the European Tour for 2014.

Another top 10 finish in the French Open this week would push Shaw into the top 110 and while that is asking a lot for a man playing his seventh event in a row, he’s shown he’s more than capable of that kind of golf.

“The last two years have been really positive for me,” said former international Shaw, who beat Rory McIlroy in a play-off for the 2005 Mullingar Scratch Cup and claimed the North of Ireland Amateur in 2005 and 2007.

“I didn’t want to look back and regret not doing this or that. People say you are good enough and you keep believing them and slowly put surely I have made progress.”

Shaw got off to a shaky start with two opening bogeys but chipped in for a momentum shifting birdie four at the fourth, birdied the sixth and then holed a 40 footer for an eagle two at the driveable 13th.

Four steady pars followed before he birdied the last to secure the biggest pay cheque of his career.

While he was tired at the finish, he will head to Paris tomorrow with high hopes.

“It’s another massive European Tour event,” he said. “I have played six in a row and it will be the seventh. I was looking forward to the week off and I am quite tired but we will have to keep going I guess.

“I don’t feel tired. I might tonight but it’s the French Open, almost a major of the tour so I have to go. I had planned to take these two weeks off but you have to go with it.”